Stressed about finances? You’re not alone. In fact, money and finances have been Americans’ top source of stress since 2007. In 2014, 72% of U.S. adults said they felt stressed about money in the past month and more than a quarter of them said they were stressed about finances most or all of the time.
Money troubles are really common. 70% of U.S. households face financial strain, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. Most Americans have very limited savings – less than what they earn in a month. Even in households with incomes over $100,000 many (22%) feel financially insecure. 150 million Americans say they couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency.
How does financial stress impact health?
Stress of any kind impacts an individual’s mental and physical health. More than one in five people felt lonely and isolated in the past month due to stress, according to the American Psychological Association. One in four said that stress had a very strong or strong impact on their physical health. And what do we do when we are stressed? We overeat, watch lots of television, don’t get enough exercise, and we smoke or drink or both. To make matters worse, chronic stress actually alters the way the body functions, making it more susceptible to illness – from the common cold to heart disease.
Ironically, paying for health care is major strain on household budgets. Health care costs are the number one money-related concern for American workers, according to the Principal Financial Well-Being Index. Over a quarter of U.S. adults said they or a member of their household have struggled to pay medical bills in the past year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. What’s worse, many people can’t afford to get the health care they need in the first place. In 2014, 12% didn't get the health care they needed due to cost.
How can you improve your financial health?
So – reducing your financial stress can improve your health – but how can you reduce financial stress? One way is to start saving NOW. Even a few dollars a week will build a cushion. Put it aside right when you get paid, and cut back on something in your life like cigarettes, alcohol, coffee or going out to restaurants. Start building a credit history, or work to improve damaged credit (here are some tips). If you can do just a little to pay off your debt or begin to save today, you will feel healthier in the long run.
Another way to improve your financial health is to protect yourself from high medical costs. If you don’t have health insurance, visit www.healthcare.gov to explore your options. You might qualify for subsidies to help pay for your premiums, and you will have the peace of mind knowing that if you get sick or injured, you will be able to get the care you need without being stuck with a huge bill. As a small business owner, you can also qualify for tax credits if you provide health insurance for your employees. Small Business Majority has a helpful guide on how to offer employee health benefits.